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Black stoneware and slip, glazed interior

Not for food use

H. 18.5 x w. 7 x d. 6 cm



About Judy Adams

"Working with black stoneware clay I hand build vessels and abstract sculptural pieces. I like to use as few tools as possible when working, as I want each piece to reflect the maker, the making process and the nature of the material itself – I like ‘made by hand’ to be literally that. Surface decoration is influenced by early to mid-20th century textile designs and abstract art. Exteriors are left unglazed, with a naturally matt finish to add textural quality, and to focus attention on the fired black clay and coloured slip decoration. Vessel interiors are glazed either in iron lustre or tenmoku glaze. I fire twice with a final firing to 1185 degrees C in an electric kiln."


"I trained in Ceramics and 3-d Design, then Jewellery and Silversmithing and all these disciplines inform my work.  Alongside my ceramics, I have worked as a freelance writer, contributing to Ceramic Review, The Crafts Council magazine ‘Crafts’, and the US magazines Ceramics Monthly and Potterymaking Illustrated. "


"My writing and pottery making techniques are featured in two books in the Ceramic Arts Handbook Series: ‘Extruder, Mold & Tile Forming Techniques’ and ‘Studio Ceramics Advanced Techniques’ both published by The American Ceramic Society."


"I was one of the 3-person Selection Committee for the annual international ceramics fair ‘Earth and Fire’ in 2007. My work is featured in selected galleries in England and Wales."



Maker Q&A

How important is the material itself to your work?

J: To me, black stoneware clay is a superb medium to explore creative expression. It offers endless opportunities to experiment with form, texture, colour, dimension.  I like to work with the minimum of intervention between me and the material, so that hand-made is precisely what it says – a hands-on experience.  That’s also why I like to leave the exteriors of my pieces unglazed, to let the clay speak for itself, so that you can see the material, the marks of making and firing, and hopefully notice how different a hand-made piece is from a factory produced ceramic.  The black clay also provides an ideal contrasting background for designed decorative effects. 


Can you tell us more about the work featured in our Winter Exhibition?

J:  I enjoy making jug forms because they seem to have a personality of their own. The size and position of the spout, the curve of the handle and shape of the body all contribute to the character of the finished form.  After handbuilding the form, I chose the shades of autumn for this particular piece, working with reds, golds, oranges, ochre and lemon to create mingled panels of colour on each side of the jug.  I work on the decoration immediately after creating the form, while the clay is still relatively soft, and can readily accept the liquid slip.  After the first firing to 1000 degrees C, I glazed the interior with an iron lustre finish and fire again to 1185 degrees C so  that the vessel can hold water if need be. The jug form is intended to be decorative rather than functional.


When did you first work with black clay?

J: I had been working with buff-coloured stoneware clay for many years, and using glazes on the exterior and interior in the conventional manner.  But in some ways I felt the clay itself and the making process were being ‘lost’, hidden behind layers of glaze. 


 I had always liked the simplicity of form, and the liveliness in decoration of ancient Greek pots, where the clay could still be seen and the motifs were created with coloured liquid clay slip giving a matt finish. During a visit to an archaeological site in Crete, I remember seeing Minoan wine storage jars which still showed the original fingermarks of the potter who made them, and I found the whole appearance and decoration of these ancient ceramics suggested a new direction. Black clay also seemed to offer an ideal canvas for decorative design, and so about four years ago I began experimenting with black stoneware clay and coloured slip.  I now work in black stoneware clay exclusively.


What first drew you to hand-building?

J: I handbuild all pieces because I simply love the material itself and its capacity to respond to the maker.  The black stoneware I use is a robust and strong clay for handbuilding and allows me to form and decorate in one process, which is challenging and exciting at the same time.  If used for throwing though, the clay’s heavily grogged nature is rather severe on the hands, so to a degree my clay influences my making method.

Autumn Jug | H. 18.5 cm | By Judy Adams